Who Am I in My Dream?


Thank goodness we are not held accountable for the things we do in our dreams!  Most of us have indulged in violent or antisocial behavior, been promiscuous, or conducted a business meeting topless!  These images can be frightening and shame producing if we identify with the self who shows up in the dream.

Identifying with the figure who represents you in a dream sometimes makes it impossible to deepen the understanding of the message of the dream because you feel so squeamish about what happened in the dream.  The most important thing to remember is that the figure who is YOU in the dream is not actually YOU.  That figure represents the current state of identity–the YOU you know yourself to be today or the night you had the dream.Many times the dream  is the harbinger of new and unfolding aspects of identity.  Those emerging aspects of self are always frightening or disgusting or upsetting to the self you are today.  For example, a woman who was very quiet and retiring was on the cusp of speaking up more for herself.  She dreamed that she was growing claws and fangs.  She woke horrified.  To the self she knew herself to be–retiring, quiet, and unable to express aggression, the new emerging self who would be able to do that was horrifying.

So when you find yourself doing something unexpected, or embarrassing or criminal or shocking–remember it’s only relative to an established sense of self.  The new parts of self often come in as exaggerated or extreme.  Your own wise psyche is preparing you for a change and getting your more staid, familiar self ready.  Be curious about what’s coming in, and why it might appear so shocking to your familiar identity.

Color in Dreams–White


Over many years of working with others’ and my own dreams I’ve observed that occasionally an object appears in a dream that normally is another color, but in the dream, it is white.

White Wolf

I had been working for a long time with an anorexic young woman.  Shortly before she had a breakthrough that preceded her beginning to eat more normally, she dreamed that she was visited by a white wolf.

The wolf is often imagined as an animal with a voracious appetite–hungry as a wolf.  In this dream it showed up, not in its more familiar color, gray or black, but entirely white.  The dream announced the soon-to-be arrival of the young woman’s healthy appetite.

White Mary Janes

Another client who had had a terribly abused childhood, including sexual abuse,  dreamed one day that her child self was walking down the street in her familiar Mary Jane shoes, but instead of being black patent leather, the shoes she wore were white–the color brides wear indicative of purity.

Two white irises

Two white irises appeared in my own dream after I made an important decision.  I struggled with a conflict about ending an important relationship.  Finally I came to a decision to end the relationship and the night after I delivered my decision, the two white irises graced my dream.  Iris was the messenger goddess in the Greek pantheon who navigated between the divine and human realms.  She was associated with the rainbow, and represented a similar meaning as the rainbow–a sign of God’s promise to Noah.  The two white irises confirmed that the decision I had made was aligned with a deep soulful part of myself. The white irises represented a promise of hope.

In addition to the irises appearing white (the more familiar color is purple) this dream depicted them as doubles–a sign of an energy brewing in the unconscious, not yet fully realized by the awake, conscious self. At that time for me, it was optimism–at the time I was nervous, fearful, and worried whether I was making the right decision, but once made, the dream reassured me, just like the rainbow, that sunny days were ahead. For more on doubling in dreams see my post on twins, pairs, twosomes and duos in dreams.

White adds a spiritual, soul dimension to a dream image.  Not only does it highlight the importance of the image, it tells the dreamer that the message of the dream has a spiritual dimension.  For the anorexic woman, beginning to eat was a holy act–her hunger was not only related to her body, it was related to her soul. When she began to eat again, she was choosing life. For the woman who had the abused childhood, revisiting her childhood and finding a “white” standpoint, pure, naive, virginal, was deeply transformational and healing.  She could claim the holiness of childhood that had been denied her by  the abuser. And for me, finding hope out of confusion and conflict was not only a matter of the single decision I had made.  Through the image, the dream  restored a sense of faith and trust in myself.

Images in Dreams–signs or symbols?


The difference between a sign and a symbol is that a sign is an image that stands for a specific word or object, whereas a symbol is much greater.  It is an image that communicates something much larger than itself.  As an example, let’s take the apple. When we see this apple


Apple logo
Apple logo


We know that this apple signifies the technological company that makes computers, ipads, iphones, and ipods.  Because the image says: apple = Apple, Inc. it is a sign,  Most trademarks are signs.  When images appear in dreams, they are seldom signs.


There are many other associations to the apple:


The apple of my eye    Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge

And there are many other mythological associations to the apple:

  • Eris, the goddess of discord, threw the golden apple inscribed” To the most beautiful”  at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis.  She caused discord among the goddesses Aphrodite, Athena and Hers, leading to the Trojan War.
  • Heracles was required to travel to the Garden of the Hesperides as one of his Twelve Labors, and there he was to pick golden apples growing on the Tree of Life.
  • Atalanta did not want to marry and defeated all her suitors by racing them.  Hippoomenes defeated her by throwing 3 golden apples in her path causing her to lose the race.  The apples were gifts from Aphrodite.
  • In the Arthurian legend, Avalon was the “Isle of Apples.”
  • The Cornish festival of Allantide celebrated on October 31st included giving large shining red apples as a token of good luck. An apple under the pillow of the unmarried brought dreams of a spouse.
  • When Heracles wanted to crush an apple under his foot, it grew larger.  it was an apple of discord.  When he tried to crush it again, it grew again twice more its size.


Through the many mythological stories about the apple, we understand it not to be merely a sign, but a symbol that has many meanings shimmering around it. When an apple appears in a dream, its roots reach down into this fertile ground of meaning.


Here’s a dream image:

I dreamed I sat on an apple and fished.
I dreamed I sat on an apple and fished.

The apple in the dream is not a sign, it’s a symbol.  It doesn’t have an assigned meaning.  To understand this dream, we draw from all the symbolic meaning.  The apple as a gift from the gods, with the ability to generate discord,  The oversized apple makes us think of Heracles who tried to crush the apple of discord, and it only grew bigger.  Could this dreamer be sitting on a discord that he is trying to crush?  For sure we know we are circulating in the symbolic realm of the large apple.  Too much knowledge for one’s own good?  Discord that is growing exponentially?  A challenge to the gods?  A temptation?


All of these questions will help the dreamer locate the psychological and emotional area to which the dream makes reference.  Hopefully the curiosity of the dreamer will be awakened by the dream symbol and a rich discovery can be made,  Write to me about the symbolic images that appear in your dreams.


The Dreamer and the “I” of the dream

During the night as I dream, I do many things that I would never imagine myself doing in my awake life.  I commit murder, adultery, theft, and other horrifying actions.  When the “I” of the dream does these outrageous things, the awake person often feels shame and responsibility as if she had actually done them. Identifying with the self who appears in the dream can be a detriment to gaining valuable information from a dream.

The shame a dreamer feels for what she did during the dream often causes her to discard the dream rather than experience the bad feelings of the dream or the bad feelings about the dream.  Separating the awake self from the dreaming self is so important. In that way the awake person can gain insight that the unconscious is trying to communicate.  For example, here’s the image that a dream brought to me:

Stabbing with a kitchen knife
Stabbing with a kitchen knife

The night after a serious conversation with my sister, I had such a dream!  Imagine an empathic, kind person in my waking life, and night was driving a kitchen knife into my sister!  If I dismissed the dream because the “I” of the dream was so hideous to my awake sense of self, I would have lost information about myself.  I learned from the dream that I was mis-using my sharp insight.  What would have been useful to “pare down” a big issue, instead made my sister feel bad about herself.

Because of the dream I was able to go back and rectify the situation. So the dream brought to my attention the unconscious way the empathic, kind person I thought myself to beI had been a “murderer.”  The dream self introduced my shadow self to my awake self.

More later on this topic because the relationship between the dreamer and the “I” of the dream is so important!